Guest article by DP Rangan
(We started the New Year with our tiny friends – birds – introduced to us by a scholarly guest article by Shalan Lal. At the other end of the spectrum, the large species Horse has been even more integral to us through the history. And introducing these beautiful animals is this erudite article by DP Rangan through Bollywood’s love affair with the Horse.
Mr Rangan is a latecomer to the SoY, but he has made his presence felt by his active engagement and informative comments. He is diligently devouring the previous posts of SoY, and like Shalan writes to me long mails on various topics. From his mails I have gathered that after retirement from government service long ago he has become a globe trotter, spending time with his sons who are settled abroad and touching home in Delhi periodically. Well over seventy, he joins the senior brigade of SoY, but has the enthusiasm of a teenager. We are fortunate to have grand opening by two guest authors at the beginning of the year, and I am sure we are going to see many more from them. Welcome Mr Rangan formally at the top line and thanks a lot for this excellent piece. – AK)
Horse is no stranger to us bipeds and its life is closely interwoven with that of humans. As an utilitarian they have no equals. They served mankind, albeit unwillingly as mounts, beasts of burden, plough draggers, stagecoach haulers, Victoria pullers, transporting royals and dignitaries to name a few.
In olden days horses were used predominantly in battles and wars. They hauled siege engines over tough terrain prior to artillery days and later canon and gun carriages, pulled wagons carrying war material, victuals for personnel and other paraphernalia. Soldiers rode them as part of cavalry in the battles waged down ages. These units by their bold charge have turned tide of many a battle. Till the close of the nineteenth century they were the backbone of all conflicts, major or minor. The last big engagement in which they played their role was the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1900 in South Africa. With the dawn of mechanized warfare from then on, horses mercifully got a big reprieve. They were not used in active warfare thereafter, but still continue to serve humanity in other fields. Man will not let them go from bondage unlike camels which were imported from Arabia into Western Australia and were later turned loose close to the end of the nineteenth century to become feral with periodical culling to reduce their menace of competing for water with humans.
Without horses to pull post chaises, movement of people and goods across the continent in Europe and America would have been impossible. In America, Pony Express riders sped on mounts across the continent for delivering mail, braving weather, terrain and hostile Native Americans (Red Indian is an undesirable term now) ready to scalp and murder them for nineteen months from 1860 till the completion of the Telegraph Service across America which rendered it obsolete. Such was their reliability, only one mail was lost during their tenure. As on date Canada has its fully functional Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Police mount horses and use them for crowd control. Horse regiments are still part of the armed forces. Their role is mainly ornamental, escorting VIPs. And here too motorcades have replaced them by and large.
I will be amiss if I fail to stress their importance in sports. Chariot racing and mounted horse racing was a popular sport from ancient times and was part of the Olympics by 650 BC. Here is a clip of chariot race from the film Ben Hur (1959) which supports my observation. It is a thrilling 4 minute extract and is known all over the world.
Horse racing is a great sports event in modern era too, making or marring fortunes of people who gambled on the final outcome of the races. In England a belief took hold that Dukes managing big stables took greater interest in quality horse breeding than their own lineage. Jaipur Maharajah used them in Horse Polo sport and army has its tent and peg contest. Horses with eye shields and mouth bits (cruelty imposed on them by man) were yoked to carts and transported people from railway stations, bus stands etc. to their chosen destination. They were a permanent fixture in the country including metropolitan cities. Delhi was probably the last city to banish tongas from streets.
The present article is to dwell on their role in films and how film producers handled them therein. As a measure of honour to them for the past services rendered and future utility, I will begin this epistle with an attempt to construct their genealogical history, which is a shade longer than humans. Readers who would have got bored by now can safely ignore the next two paragraphs without loss of continuity.
The horse (Equus ferus caballus) has been around for more than fifty million years. It is an odd toed ungulate mammal belonging to the family known as Equidae. Mainly based on fossil evidence, palaeontologists have deduced that horse increased in size from a fox like creature to current one. The ancestor of the modern horse – Equus evolved around 5 million years ago and continued thereafter with no noticeable mutation. An endangered species of horses known as ‘Przewalski’s were never domesticated and remain ‘wild horses’ to this date. Due to human endeavour they were saved from extinction. With conservation spirit ruling the roost, I am sanguine horses will last as long as humanity.
I should apologise if some readers find the above post tedious. However much one may endeavour to explain in detailed written explanations, nothing will be equal to visual presentation. I am posting a picture of the metamorphosis of the species, a few drawings of the early horses and also of the sole surviving wild horse variety.
(Courtesy : Wikipedia and other related sources)
Horses have been completely integrated into the lives of human beings since their domestication for more than 3000 years. They were the backbone of human’s effort to spread over and occupy land for habitation. Individuals using horses as mount for their day to day travel far outstripped carts, chariots, post chaise etc.
In ancient times emperors in India performed Ashwamedh Yagya to emphasize their hold over the empire they had built by subjugating various kingdoms by warfare or diplomacy. The Ashwamedh horse was escorted on a tour of the empire with soldiers picked by the emperor. Interfering with its smooth passage would be deemed an act of defiance and perpetrators of such a deed had to break spears with emperors’ armed escort. Failure for the challenger meant re-imposition of the yoke and success would be a humiliation to the performer of the Yagya. We know Luv and Kush held the Ashwamedh horse of Lord Ram, not knowing that he was their father, and defeated the army sent to rescue it, ultimately forcing Ram himself to face the challenge of the twins.
It would be surprising to learn that horse which roamed freely in the American continent in geological times became extinct. They were introduced to American hemisphere by the Spaniards. Herman Cortes defeated Montezuma, king of Aztecs with the help of mounted men. The horses were viewed with terror by the Aztecs and a far superior army in numbers was easily overwhelmed by a handful of Spaniards. Spain became master of Central America and also South America. Without the horses they would never have spread over such a vast territory and held it under their sway for the next two hundred and fifty years. The Spaniards travelled north and established mission stations and took horses everywhere. A few escaped and roamed the vast plain of North America spawning wild horses, a major source of animals for domestication. The English colonized the coastal area of North America and soon moved into the interior for settlement ousting the Native Americans. Horses meant the difference between survival and death of individuals when they had to negotiate deserts and dry areas. Great cattle ranches were established and cowboys and vaqueros (of South American pampas) rode the horses to control them and a great legend was born. Horse was the main stay of lawmen and outlaws in the American West. The horse played a major role in the spread of Americans from coast to coast leading to the birth of the present day USA. During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) they served the army in all capacities. Everywhere in the civilized world horse ruled the roost till the dawn of mechanical age in the early nineteenth century. Thereafter their role became ancillary.
Film producers in India, particularly in Bollywood were great innovators and integrated this quadruped into their plots. They were used in all sorts of situations – leading couples gambolling cheek by jowl astride the horses with glazed looks of love, hot pursuit of villains, desperate dash for freedom by heroes from pursuing yokels of evil powers, mounted regiments in period movies and so on. In historical pictures they blended into the canvas perfectly making them indispensable. In dacoit based movies, they were a great necessity as a means of fleet footed transport to ensure survival of the villain for the duration of the movie till the last moments when he conveniently tumbles down the mountain and gives up the ghost or taken in handcuffs by the mounted police who always arrive at the scene of carnage long after the hero had vanquished the evil force single handed, watched all along by his lady love in trepidation.
It would be a grave miscarriage of justice if the principal actor of such scenes, i.e. The Horse is not given its due importance. The horse being a dumb creature may not be able to demand its share of recognition from the film producers. It is up to us humans who have enslaved the horse for their own use to repair this omission as an act of noblesse oblige.
Bollywood film producers had introduced both mounted horses and tonga/chariot pulled by single or pair of horses as part of the film. Since I am not a historian and do not have adequate data of film bibliography, I cannot ascertain whether the horses or the cart appeared first in film. It is a classic case of which came first chick or egg. I would earnestly solicit the film history buffs who populate this blog to resolve this riddle. I am hopeful AK would present a medallion to the first person who presents authentic data, i.e. which came first – horses cantering along or horses pulling carts with a resigned look. I would proceed further to present a few songs covering this scenario of horses merrily plodding along despite a minor irritant, i.e., burdened by human rider on their back.
1. Aaja re aaja na sata by Asha Bhosle from Chhoo Mantar (1956), lyrics Jaanisar Akhtar, music OP Nayyay
The storyline fits in perfectly with the two boys-girl formula laid down by AK in his review of Sangam. Johnny Walker – Anita Guha (B1 & G1) followed by Karan Dewan – Shyama (B2 & G2) go through the motions. An amalgam of commoner and royal line characters with a gang of smugglers thrown in and expected to be vanquished by heroes are the backbone of the plot as woven by the Director.
The song is in typical O P Nayyar style and easily identifiable but not top quality. Other great songs are – Rafi-Shamshad duet, Rafi-Geeta duet – Tumhee ne dard diya, Novelty here is the girls in horse garb (kathputlies) doing the merry go round. What is portrayed is a dummy horse ride.
2. O pawan veg se udnewale ghode by Lata Mangeshkar from Jai Chitod (1961), lyrics Barat Vyas, music SN Tripathi
Who has not heard of the valiant Rajputs and their running battle with the Mughals over two hundred years from the time of Babar? Many Rajput clans tiring of the conflict submitted to the Mughal rule and also served in their court. Akbar’s consort Jodha Bai was a Rajput princess. Chittor Maharana Pratap Singh (1540 – 1597) of Sisodia clan was an exception. He fought the Moghuls to the end and denied any bride from his clan. His horse Chetak was a legend by itself. In this scene, Maharani (Nirupa Roy) is applying tilak on the forehead of Rana Pratap when he is preparing to face the Mughals led by a Rajput Man Singh deputizing for Akbar at Haldighati in 1576. Shri Shyam Narayan Pandey has written an epic poem on this battle. She is soliciting the horse Chetak to safeguard the king and deliver him back to her safely. Despite receiving mortal wound, Chetak rode away from the battle lost by Rajputs and saved Maharana Pratap from capture and then collapsed. Maharana Pratap built a monument for the horse at Haldighati which can still be seen. Excellent tune composed by S. N. Tripathi in tune with the army proceeding for battle.
3. Koi pyar ki dekhe jadugari by Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Kohinoor (1960), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
A Dilip Kumar – Meena Kumari starrer, it is the usual romantic story of historical class with its quota of villain and his hit-men to spoil the romance between the leading actors, but succumbing in the end as good triumphs over evil. Naushad’s music is exceptional and each and every song is a beauty by itself. Here they are riding on horses crooning all the way and Meena Kumari plays a romantic role. Scene presentation is not realistic. When Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari are shown in close up horse has been concealed. When they are shown together, it appears as if they are riding a vehicle and not plying in horses as individual sway is not apparent. Most of the scene is distant shot of a pair of horses cantering with mounted riders. The song is of a high calibre and Naushad is in his elements in this genre.
4. Main suraj hoon by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle from Dhil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966), lyrics GS Rawal, music Sonik-Omi
Dharmendra and Nutan are the leading actors in this social drama. Both of them are riding through a hilly terrain. Hero is equating himself to a sun and his lady love as the rays emanating from the sun. Asha Bhonsle matches Mohammad Rafi line by line. The horses seem to be past their prime and maintain a sedate pace throughout. The title song in Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya by Mohammad Rafi, Suman Kalyanpur and Mukesh is quite pleasing to hear and set in a lake surrounded by ice clad mountain.
5. Oo bachapan ke din bhula na dena by Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum from Deedar (1951), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
A Bollywood hit film of 1951, it had all the major stars – Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nargis and Nimmi. A social drama that fits perfectly into the formula devised by AK on two boys and two girls. Boy 1 (Dilip Kumar) loves Girl 1 (Nargis), but Girl 1 loves Boy 2 (Ashok Kumar) and Girl 2 (Nimmi) is in love with Boy 1. Boy 1 gets blinded in an accident in his childhood and Girl 1 forgets him totally when she has grown up into an adult and in love with Boy 2, a doctor. The story drags on and in the end Boy 1 cured of his blindness by Boy 2 becomes blind again with self-inflicted injury in atonement and is gladly accepted by Girl 2. The leftovers Boy 2 and Girl 1 get back into groove after it was derailed in between.
This song picturizes them as children. Baby Tabassum and Parikshit Sahni act the role of girl and boy. Naushad has placed his stamp on the song. This link portrays in addition the song sung in slow motion by Shamshad Begum and a line sung by Mohammad Rafi showing an adult Dilip Kumar as a blind youth.
6. Mujhe dekho hasrat ki tasweer hun main by Talat Mahmood from Baaz (1953), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music OP Nayyar
A Guru Dutt – Geeta Balli starrer set in the days of Portuguese rule in Malabar. A period movie with plenty of naval action. The local ruler had handed over reigns to the Portuguese and their oppressive ways sow seeds of rebellion in the affected people. A convoluted plot with usual twists and turns. Guru Dutt, a prince in disguise, throws himself with the people. Having been caught in the rebellion red handed, he is being taken to scaffold on a horse. Such is his cheerful mien, he is marching to his alleged death with a song on his lips and what a song. It is the most unusual song composed by O P Nayyar contrary to his style. It is being sung in slow tempo by Talat Mahmood and the prince lip synchs. To put the readers at rest about his final fate, I do say with personal authority having seen the movie, he is rescued by the resourceful lady love and the Portuguese are defeated and we may assume their conjugal bliss continued unhindered. It is a sweet song sung by the prince of crooners.
7. Main deewana mastana by Mukesh from Forty Days (1959), lyrics Kaifi Azmi, music Babul
I have not seen the movie and am in total ignorance of the raison d’etre for this odd title of the movie. May I presume the community would dispel the darkness. The hero Premnath seems to be either a gun toting dacoit or a prince of the scion. After watching a few more songs I will lean on the latter as he is moving around freely amidst the community with no sign of any authority of law after him. Shakila is his companion and K N Singh looks like the arch villain. A gypsy band is also involved with the Sardar looking daggers at the wooing display of presumably his daughter. Mukesh has ensured no note of pathos creeps in his performance.
8. Aaj unse pahli mulaquaat by KIshore Kumar from Paraya Dhan (1971), lyrics Anand Baxi, music RD Burman
Rakesh Roshan and Hema Malini are the leading players in the movie. The setting appears to be a village deep in the Himalayan range. Rakesh is proceeding merrily on an equally intoxicated equine in the fond expectation of meeting his lass, but at the same time he is apprehensive of how it may turn out to be, welcome with open arms or cold shouldered. Director has managed to get a free audience of local children for whom it must be once a life time experience of being pictured in the silver screen. How our tinpot politicians with all their putrid minds exposed through their utterances and innuendos would have wished for such committed audience instead of purchasing them. It is a trademark song from RD Burman and we can see his style immediately and who else will sing but Kishore Kumar.
9. Humkadam humsafar hum nasheen humzuban by Mana Dey, Mahendra Kapur and Usha Khanna from Nishan (1965), lyrics Javed Anwar, music Usha Khanna
Not to be confused with a film of similar title which appeared in Byzantine era from Kollywood, the similarity ends with the name of the film now produced by Homi Wadia. Sanjeev Kumar, Sheikh Mukhtar, Nazima and Helen are the major actors with many nameless extras thrown in. Hitherto we were usually accustomed to scenes of single horse or a pair streaking through. Now we are witnessing an irregular cluster of horses thundering through in full disarray. Sheikh Muktar starts the proceedings subsequently joined by Sanjeev Kumar. In between the lithe lady screams a sentence. They seem to be building up their morale and if the situation is properly read, they are intent on scaring away their enemies by their singing rather than exhibiting their doubtful martial prowess. I would not like to influence the opinion of the fraternity about the song, but leave it to them for their critical analysis.
10. Mera ghoda bada hai nigoda by Kishore Kumar from Parichay (1954), lyrics Keshav, music Ved Pal
Abhi Bhattacharya and Shashikala are the lead pairs with many more actors unheard of. It appears they are part timers with their bread winner efforts coming from elsewhere. Without a live video it is difficult to conclude whether the scene is of a tonga pulled by seething horse or solely horse with the inevitable human burden on its back. Claiming the privilege of a writer I think it is a mixture of both. The horse seems to have broken free midway leaving all in lurch. With the flight of the locomotor, it appears one of the riders had volunteered to be a substitute and acts the part of the horse in the process quite convincingly as is discernable when listening to the song in full. A top notch performance from Kishore Kumar who goes through all his usual drill in aplomb. Link is given below in the fond hope listeners would enjoy the audio part with a grinning Kishore Kumar as a virtual companion.
I have somehow managed to collect ten pieces from the inexhaustible treasure trove – YouTube and thank the uploaders for their efforts. Let me frankly admit I stumbled upon most of the pieces unexpectedly and would attribute it to the phenomenon of serendipity. I request the learned followers of the blog to unearth more such songs figuring only horses and post it for the enjoyment of all.